Microsoft wants to help put disabled people on equal footing

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(Photo credit: Microsoft)

(From CNET) — My first brush with accessibility tech was with closed captioning.
Like most people, I took it for granted and mostly ignored it as a setting on my TV. But one day, when I was fed up pausing my movie for the billionth time because an ambulance was blaring down our street, I decided to turn it on. Over time, it changed the way I watch TV — to the point where I miss it when it’s not there.

This is the ideal for people like Jenny Lay-Flurrie, Microsoft’s head of accessibility. She doesn’t just want the world to accommodate people with disabilities, she wants technology just to get better, and as a result benefit disabled people. (read more)

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The sentiment of this essay is earnest in its intent. Members of the disabled community are benefiting greatly from an accessibility technology. However, it also is somewhat problematic. The point of contention relates to messaging of the last sentence above. It tends to minimize the real time need for nondisabled folks to focus on persons who are disabled. Albeit aspirational in tone, the statement suggests accessibility game controller technology should be a mere byproduct of overall design enhancement for everyone rather than a specific human rights issue for persons with disabilities. A minor point? Not when it comes to anti-oppression work. The Beyond Diversity Resource Center believes specific emphasis must be directed at mechanisms and conditions that contribute to both the achievements and disappointments that cause and affect disparities in our society.

(Click here to learn more)

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5 Black Women Were Told to Golf Faster. Then the Club Called the Police.

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(photo credit: Myneca Ojo, via Facebook) 

(New York Times) – What started out as a relaxing day at a Pennsylvania golf course turned into an ugly confrontation between the white men who run the club and five black women who were playing there.

It had echoes of other recent incidents, at a Starbucks in Philadelphia and a Waffle House in Alabama, in which black customers found themselves in racially charged disputes. Once again, the police were summoned. Once again, a video spread widely on social media and drew national attention.

On Saturday in a largely white suburban community in Dover Township, York County, the women began playing at Grandview Golf Club before being told that they were moving too slowly…

(Read more)

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A disturbing yet nonetheless relevant aspect to this story is that police were called. It was a seemingly disproportionate reaction to a nonviolent disagreement over an organizational policy, not a criminal act. Fueled by bias and other factors, systemic oppression perpetuates conditions through which patterns of race and gender discrimination, as well as other forms of identity discrimination persist. Diversity climate studies are an essential step in understanding the inherent strengths an organization has on diversity issues and how those strengths can be leveraged to make further improvements.

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Op-Ed: The Institutional Sexism in Cycling Needs to End

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(From Outside) — Former pro road rider Iris Slappendel founded the first labor union for women cyclists with one goal: getting team managers, sponsors, and riders to treat male and female cyclists with equal respect, ’cause that sure isn’t happening now.

(Read more)

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Institutional discrimination based on gender continues to persist. This, despite governmental policies and laws firmly in place meant to eradicate it. Much of it is rooted in bias that is largely culture driven, although some of it occurs as a result of unconscious attitudes and behaviors. In either case, change continues to be needed.

Click here to learn more about gender inequities, how to recognize them and what to do when you encounter them.

 

Men Are Responsible for Mass Shootings

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AR15(From harpersbazaar.com) — Shootings, whether they’re in Parkland, Orlando, Las Vegas or Sutherland Springs, all tend have one thing in common. It’s not that they’re done by mentally ill people (there is no true connection between people with a mental health diagnosis and mass shootings, according to experts), or that they’re…

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Discrimination against persons with a disability is an age old problem. The latest cascade of scapegoating them involve the mass shootings happening across our country. In fact, persons with a mental disability are no more likely to be violent than nondisabled people. Yet society engages regularly in knee-jerk blaming of violent actions as a mental health issue – particularly when the perpetrator is a white male. This false narrative fuels oppressive ways of thinking about mental health and those with disabilities.

Click here to learn more about systemic oppression, how to recognize it, how it affects us, and how to interrupt it.

How East and West Think in Profoundly Different Ways

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(From the BBC) – Psychologists are uncovering the surprising influence of geography on our reasoning, behavior, and sense of self.

Until recently, scientists had largely ignored the global diversity of thinking. In 2010, an influential article in the journal Behavioral and Brain Sciences reported that the vast majority of psychological subjects had been “western, educated, industrialized, rich and democratic”, or ‘Weird’ for short. Nearly 70% were American, and most were undergraduate students hoping to gain pocket money or course credits by giving up their time to take part in these experiments.

The tacit assumption had been that this select group of people could represent universal truths about human nature – that all people are basically the same. If that were true, the Western bias would have been unimportant. Yet the small number of available studies which had examined people from other cultures would suggest that this is far from the case.”

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When it comes to cultural identity and difference, bias plays a huge role – not just in how you perceive others, but also how you view yourself and those like you. This cultural bias is especially problematic when one limits oneself to interacting only with people who think and look like you. It creates a false sense of understanding rooted in a very limited experience. There are all sorts of barriers that contribute to these conditions. The above article highlights the very real issue that arises as a result of geographic barriers. Towering mountains, expansive oceans and vast distances all contribute to groups of people being separated. In such cases, “truth” becomes a real matter of perspective that is largely driven by experiences within that group. Such matters of truth are also apparent closer to home, even within the same city or community.

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RNC sides with Trump ban of transgender people in military

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(From the Chicago Tribune) — The Republican National Committee is siding with President Donald Trump on his order to bar transgender individuals from serving in the U.S. military.

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Intolerance and oppression walk hand in hand. Transgender soldiers have served in the military with distinction for generations. The United States Armed Forces is an institution whose systems, though flawed, have steadily pushed the boundaries of acceptance (albeit slowly), and often paved the way for women, gay males and females, African Americans and other persons of color to serve and rise through the ranks. In turn, its policies have trickled into nonmilitary employment sectors. Interrupting attempts to walk back the freedom and equitable treatment of oppressed groups of people through training and education is Job One of the Beyond Diversity Resource Center.

To learn more click here.

Beyoncé’s father takes on ‘colorism’: He dated her mother because he thought she was white

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(Mathew Knowles and Tina Knowles-Lawson at a fashion show in Beverly Hills, Calif., in Feb. 2007. [Matt Sayles/AP])

(From the Washington Post) — Racism is a common topic in the mainstream media. But an insidious cousin, colorism, gets less attention. Novelist Alice Walker defined colorism an 1982 essay as “prejudicial or preferential treatment of same-race people based solely on their color.” In other words, it’s the concept of prejudice within a race against someone because of their skin tone. It’s a particularly important and controversial topic in the…

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The concept of colorism dates back as far as chattel slavery in the United States, with its earliest origins emerging as a grotesque outcome of white slave owner rape. As the article suggests, same-race prejudice evolved side by side with racism. It was a learned phenomenon, passed down through the generations and fueled by persistent external forces such as the Black Codes, Jim Crow statutes, and stereotypic misrepresentations of African Americans in media. It was also marked by a condition defined by the Beyond Diversity Resource Center and others as internalized racial oppression. Understanding its often self-defeating mechanisms, both conscious and unconscious, require education, empathy and deep reflection. Yet much like racism is in the white community, colorism among African Americans is a painful and often taboo topic. Addressing and interrupting colorism requires methods of critical exploration on the subject that must be tempered with brave compassion.

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Disabled athletes make full-court press at SDSU

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(From the San Diego Union-Tribune) — Akheel Whitehead is proud to have earned 12th place in the long jump at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. But to train for the games, the 22-year-old San Diego State University alumnus had to look off campus for coaching and support. Now, he’s hoping to change the game for other disabled athletes who…

To read more click here

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This article reports on efforts to promote the equitable inclusion of everyone in college athletics, including those who may be disabled. And rightly so. Equity is about more than skin color. Its fabric extends to nearly all dimensions related to human identity. It is especially relevant at a systems level, particularly when there exists a dominant identity (i.e., male, white, straight, etc.) that inevitably expresses its “norms” in injurious ways. Whether this happens consciously or unconsciously to a non-dominant group, the outcome is similar: oppression. Identities involving physical and mental ability are no exception. In fact, ableism is one of the most invisible forms of oppression that exist. This makes it a center point for examination. Because of a general lack of awareness (or worse, denial) of even the most common issues associated with persons who have different abilities, it’s critical to acknowledge that ableism is real. Painting persons with a disability in just one dimension is common among even the most well-meaning nondisabled person. It reinforces discrimination and speaks to a dreadful bias that limits the incredible potential of tens of millions of people – approximately one in five, according to the 2000 U.S. Census.

Learn more at Beyond Diversity

 

It’s up to the Pentagon to set things right for transgender service members

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(From the Washington Post) — As of Jan. 1, the United States military finally began accepting transgender recruits. That’s despite President Trump’s tweets over the summer demanding a ban on all military service by transgender Americans. Barred multiple times by federal judges from implementing the president’s order, the…

To read more click here:

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A salient issue in this opinion piece not central to the author’s point, yet is glaring in its magnitude, is the reality of bias and how it plays out. Bias exists in all of us. It can operate at both a conscious and unconscious level. Some biases are harmless (i.e., favorite color or vacation location, dislike of winter or chocolate ice cream, etc.). It is when bias operates without our awareness that it is particularly problematic — especially when it comes to perceiving people who are different than one’s self. Its deleterious effects can range from distasteful prejudicial thoughts to discriminatory action or inaction against an individual or group of people. Both are toxic. With respect to the issue of military service and other professional vocations, personal bias in the workplace is unproductive and limits human resource capacity. It’s the same in the education sector. Unhealthy forms of bias thrives on negative stereotype narratives, which are reinforced through self-fulfilling prophecy. Bias (especially the unconscious kind) can trick us into believing our opinion is fact, no matter the evidence to the contrary. This distorted mental storytelling diminishes our ability to see others different from us as they truly are: fully formed human beings. And it begs the question, how do we work on something that can operate outside of our conscious awareness? Here are three concrete ways: 1.) Talk about it; 2.) Move with compassion; 3.)  Practice empathy.

Learn more at the Beyond Diversity Resource Center

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